WHAT CONSTITUTES INTELLIGENCE?
What are the earmarks of an intelligent species? The true and tried signs have been using tools, and development of language. There are species that have rudimentary ability to use tools. Edgar Allan Poe recognized the raven (a type of crow) to possess some of that intelligence. In probably the most famous of all English poems, The Raven, he pays homage to this stately bird of the saintly days of yore as being the smartest of that species… evermore. In more recent years the crow has demonstrated further evidence that it indeed deserved Poe’s attention by learning to use tools. If a tasty worm is out of reach to the crow’s beak he will use a stick to wedge and prod until the worm shows its pointy head, where the crow can pluck it from its hiding place. This behavior is not common to all crows and must be passed on by teaching from one crow to the other. Dolphins and chimpanzees exhibit similar behavior and also have rudimentary tool using ability. Sapiens then are not the only species to use tools. Ability to communicate is much more common in the animal world than we care to admit. Bees communicate very complex instructions to their comrades as to where a particular good source of nectar is located by a dance they perform for their audience. Birds have a variety of sounds that relate source of food, danger, anger, joy etc. to their kind. Dogs and cats communicate to us all the time if you haven’t noticed. So communication is also not unique just to our species.
Then what makes us different from the rest of the animal kingdom in terms of intelligence? Intelligence is a very complex set of processes that manifests itself in behavior. Howard Gardner wrote a book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, where he outlines nine different mind mechanisms which we possess to a variable amount that makes us “intelligent”: verbal, mathematical, musical, visual, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, and existential. Can we express ourselves verbally and in writing, can we do calculus, do we have rhythm, do we have an eye for form and color, are we competent at putting a ball through a metal hoop, are we able to listen and understand others, do we know our own strengths and weaknesses, are we good at assessing our surroundings, are we sensitive to the intangibles and mysteries of life? Clearly most of us only have a couple of intelligences on board and even then maybe only half a tank full. Conversely the tank of the other intelligences may be almost empty. Mozart had a full tank of music ability, as Einstein had for mathematics, and Kobe Bryant for basketball. Most of us are not that lucky. It also matters what time in history we happen to live as to what intelligences are meaningful or useful at that time. Leonardo Da Vinci was fortunate to live in a time when putting together the right forms with the right colors and putting it on a wall of wet plaster had considerable marketability. Now any of us with a 20-megapixel camera can do better than Leonardo.
The most important intelligences we can possess at this time in our environment and historic times are the interpersonal, intrapersonal, and existential intelligences. These give us the tools to know our fellow man, ourselves, and our relations to each other, our environment, place in history and the still undiscovered unknown future. Certainly being able to correctly interpret our surroundings, both physical, political, and intellectual and correctly adapt to conditions that could potentially destroy the species is currently the most important intelligence quotient. In my assessment most of humanity is woefully imbecilic in those things that count to insure our survival in this time and place of our existence. It is clear to some of us that possess the intelligence in those specific intellectual tasks that e-mail communications from Barrister Nicruma in Nigeria wishing to transfer millions of dollars to our bank account to help his now deceased client shelter his money from the evil tax man and for that we would get a significant percentage of this treasure is a fraud. Yet there are people that continue to fall for it by sending Mr. Nicruma their bank account numbers and passwords. There are people that will buy the Brooklyn bridge even when they find out it is in Arizona. People continue to drink the cyanide laced cool aid to join the beautiful nether world just on the charismatic words of someone like Jim Jones or lock themselves up in a house, open the gas jets, and wait to join the aliens on the comet Kohoutek. Many of us see through these rather simplistic and even imbecilic ploys. But there are millions who don’t. These people are lacking interpersonal, intrapersonal, and existential intelligence. When people are severely deficient in all the other levels of intelligence we recognize it easily and call them imbeciles. We are not surprised when they say and do imbecilic things because that is what imbeciles do. But when a person talks and walks normally and can read and write, we glance over the subtler intelligences and don’t recognize that they too are just imbeciles in the more sophisticated forms of intelligence.
To believe that Joshua convinced God to stop the sun in mid-sky so he could continue killing Amorites (Numbers 21:21-35) or that Muhammad broke the moon in half then put it back together (Sura 54:1-2) violates all Newtonian principles, goes against logic and common sense. To accept the virgin birth of a god/man is highly suspicious that the people of that belief have no clue about genetics, reproductive physiology, or sense of critical thinking. To accept that earth was created 6000 years ago ignores mountains of evidence in geology, astrophysics, paleontology, biochemistry, and biology that proves beyond a shadow of doubt that earth has been around for about 4 billion years. Sixty percent of Americans do not believe in evolution! This shows serious deficiencies in curiosity, ability to reason, and lack of understanding of all of science. It unmasks an intellectual deficit and betrays a numbness of the mind. Other cultures are not immune. The current worldwide struggles of Jihad with a large population believing in impossible scenarios of the past and future and that their purpose in life is to convert all of humanity to their mindset. This is to guarantee them a spot in paradise and the ability to cavort with 72 virgins (at least for the males, the female of our species would probably not find that particular activity especially rewarding). There are 2 billion Christians and 1.6 billion Muslims on our planet that accept at least some of the ancient fairy tales and superstitions which lead to untenable positions and which have led to the Crusades (a Christian on Muslim thing) , the Inquisition (a Catholic thing on all other Christians, Jews and Muslims), 911 (a Muslim on Christian thing), the Armenian massacre (a Muslim on Christian thing), the Serbian/Bosnian Genocide (a Christian on Muslim thing) and the very recent San Bernardino Massacre (a Muslim on Christian thing). And there is almost 100% certainty of numerous more to come. Do you see a pattern here?
Much of humanity is stuck at a very primitive and basic existential intelligence level. It rivals the intellect level of perhaps chickens at best. It affects a large percentage of the world’s population and deals with the mind’s ability to understand each other, understand ourselves, and understand and interpret our circumstances correctly. We have been indoctrinated from a very early age to believe childish fairy tales. Thus our computer files are already full of data that is wrong, foolish, impossible, and corrupted. To reprogram these files is now impossible. A large percentage of humanity will drink that cool aid.
Education has not been the answer so far. We in the US have one of the better educational systems of the world. Yet we are failures. The San Bernardino killer was US born, raised, and educated. All of that did not prevent him from accepting total nonsense, mostly over the internet or from his Pakistani wife, I suppose, with not one shred of evidence, no critical thinking, and certainly lack of even the faintest hint of logic. And that was sufficient for him to be convinced to kill 14 innocent co-workers who had likely not the slightest inkling of his thinking or his motivation. The Serbian atrocities were committed by highly educated people; for example, one of them a general in their military and another a physician, poet, and author of children’s books who also was the creator of rape camps. The result of these inhumane actions towards other Sapiens in their species has done nothing more than to harden both sides into more craziness with further plans of revenge and ever more horrific atrocities.
It seems to me that the majority of us have an inability to think logically and intelligently in interpersonal, intrapersonal, and existential spheres of thought. Just like most of the animal world intelligence is parceled out on small dabs here and there. A dog will never write an essay, a raven will not rap, a chicken won’t come up with any theoretical quantum physics formulation, and a worm will not do any restorations of the Sistine Chapel any time soon. Sapiens will not (or maybe cannot) give up the acceptance and incorporation of ancient tribal thinking and customs of thousands of years ago that spurned them on to brutally murder their fellow hominid then and now.
How can we recognize who has drunk the cool aid and who will not? It would be nice if there were some easily identifiable mark that would let the rest of us know who it is we need to fear – perhaps the scarlet letters EM for Existential Moron on the forehead(?). It is, however, relatively easy to surmised the IQ in the other 8 divisions of intelligence. For example, you can easily pick out the kinesthetically challenged among us by just how they walk. Music IQ is easily seen on the dance floor along with kinesthetic abilities. The verbally challenged give themselves away when they open their mouth. It takes a math test to separate the math midgets from the math whizzes. But those IQ categories pose no risk. Just because you can’t dance or add will not make you kill. Interpersonal and intrapersonal IQ is a harder concept to evaluate and does affect your risk for aggression. But the brute, the bully, the insensitive individual is picked up by seeing them in daily action. The hardest to figuring out is the existential IQ. I am immediately suspicious of people who wear external symbols that depicts their philosophy on their sleeve. This is unfortunately not a 100% accurate test as cultural pressures may influence these people more than an inner conviction. A burka, a yarmulke or a cross around the neck for example would not necessarily be a dead giveaway but it would be a sign to be more cautious. They imply that their way is the only way and yours is just plain wrong. The best we can do is to stay away from these existential intellectual dwarfs. In the alleged words of Marie Antoinette, “Let them eat cake and slaughter each other” (I paraphrase and employ a little poetic license). Because identifying and avoiding these intellectual pigmies is not all that easy I further suggest that profiling and carrying a gun may not be such bad ideas after all.
Gosta Iwasiuk is the author of three books – Tales of a Country Surgeon (memoir), The Jesus Gene (commentary on genetics and religion) and Vladimir’s Visions (a coffee table book featuring the artwork of Vladimir Iwasiuk).